Bioaccessibility of trace elements in soils in Northern Ireland

Amy Barsby, Jennifer M. McKinley, Ulrich Ofterdinger, Mike Young, Mark R. Cave, Joanna Wragg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment of elevated concentrations of potentially toxic elements (PTE) in soils and the association with specific soil parent material have been the focus of research for a number of years. Risk-based assessment of potential exposure scenarios to identified elevated PTE concentrations has led to the derivation of site- and contaminant-specific soil guideline values (SGVs), which represent generic assessment criteria (GACs) to identify exceeded levels that may reflect an unacceptable risk to human health. A better understanding of the ‘bioavailable’ or ‘bioaccessible’ contaminant concentrations offers an opportunity to better refine contaminant exposure assessments. Utilizing a comprehensive soil geochemical dataset for Northern Ireland provided by the Tellus Survey (GSNI) in conjunction with supplementary bioaccessibility testing of selected soil samples following the Unified BARGE Method, this paper uses exploratory data analysis and geostatistical analysis to investigate the spatial variability of pseudo-total and bioaccessible concentrations of As, Cd, Co, Cr. Cu, Ni, Pb, U, V and Zn. The paper investigates variations in individual element concentrations as well as cross-element correlations and observed lithological/pedological associations. The analysis of PTE concentrations highlighted exceeded levels of GAC values for V and Cr and exceeded SGV/GAC values for Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn. UBM testing showed that for some soil parent materials associated with elevated PTE concentrations e.g. the Antrim Lava Group with high Ni concentrations, the measured oral bioaccessible fraction was relatively low. For other soil parent materials with relatively moderate PTE concentrations, measured oral bioaccessible fraction was relatively high (e.g. the Gala Sandstone Group of the Southern Uplands-Down Longford Terrain). These findings have implications for regional human health risk assessments for specific PTEs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-417
Number of pages20
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue numbernull
Early online date20 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering


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